Young People Fucking (2008) dir. Martin Gero
Starring: Aaron Abrams, Carly Pope, Kristin Booth, Callum Blue, Ennis Esmer
One of the most talked-about films ever produced in Canada is “Young People Fucking”. Earlier this year controversy about the porn-sounding title prompted an attempt by the Conservative Canadian government to obtain the right to rescind tax credits on the basis of content, thus adding risk to an already volatile financing system for domestic films – but more importantly censorship of Canadian culture. The politicians (who actually never even saw the film) failed to see the cultural importance of sex on screen.
There are few things that Canadians do well in film – animation, mockumentaries, documentaries are a few – but also sex. Sex on film in Canada is like musicals to MGM, gangster movies to Warner Bros and horror films for Universal. We seem to have a knack at showing some good old-fashioned f*cking on screen. More importantly the system allows us the freedom to show this. Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg made careers out of weird fetish sex. And even Canada’s most successful commercial film, the raunchy sex comedy “Porky’s” established one of the industry’s venerable financing institutions – The Harold Greenberg Fund. The sex in that film is still paying off 25 years later.
It would be a shame if “Young People F*cking” were squashed because of its salacious title. In fact, its title is one of the most inspired marketing tools to cross our screens in a while, and which will likely ensure it’s inevitable success. But is the film any good? Yes.
YPF is simple and transparent in its concept. Off the top we’re told we’ll be following one night in the lives of 5 couples – “the friends”: two longtime friends who desire to be f*ck-buddies; “the exes”: two former lovers attempting to rekindle a romance; “the first date”: a couple finishing off their first date with a night of hot sex; “the couple” a boyfriend and girlfriend trying to buck the tedium of routine sex; and “the roommates” the film’s only threesome.
Within each night of complex courtship, we see the five stages of sex: interlude, foreplay, sex, orgasm and afterglow. As in traditional ensemble films each scene is intercut with each other showing how each couple makes it through some of the most awkward, embarrassing, frustrating and complex baggage to simply have a little sex. The only thread that links everything together is the f*cking.
Like a good screenwriter Martin Gero sets goals for his characters and throws in as many obstacles as possible to keep them from achieving them. Gero keeps the situations realistic and observational – like a scene in Seinfeld expanded into a feature. But sex provides enough complex intricacies that there’s more than enough material to sustain and warrant a feature film treatment.
YPF could also be called “Young People Talking”, because there’s lots and lots of talk. Certainly more talk than sex. Cleverly Gero’s obstacles derive from the excess chatter his neurotic characters incessantly spew out in the most ill timed moments. Just when the romance is cruising along for our characters, a look, or a line strikes a neurosis that halts the action and creates conflict. The characters have the self-observational insight of a Woody Allen and the blockhead common sense of a Kevin Smith.
The reliance on chatter also prevents the film was breaking out and becoming a great film. The second act drags. Its contained concept starts to feel claustrophobic somewhere during the ‘foreplay’ segments. The exclusive bedroom locale and limited characters almost wears out its welcome. A ‘wildcard’ (a new character or element or location) is needed to alleviate its predictability and spin the film in a new direction.
In the end the audience gets what it wants, good comedy – and good sex – all tasteful, with dollops of non-exploitive nudity. Gero successfully articulates those quandaries, bubble thoughts, and the silent but gnawing frustrations of the act with real world adult intelligence. The Canadian federal government should embrace the only thing other than hockey that we do better than most others - show our uninhibited thoughts about sex on screen. Everyone else seems to like it. Enjoy.
"Young People F*cking" is available on DVD in Canada from Maple Pictures. Do some googling to find out where to get it in the U.S. and other parts of the world.